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tv   Book Discussion on Till We Have Built Jerusalem  CSPAN  May 7, 2016 11:00pm-11:51pm EDT

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their subject. >> book tv weekend, they they bring you author after author. i love book tv and i'm a cspan fan. >> book tv tapes hundreds of programs threat the country all your long. here's a look at some of the events we will be covering this week. on monday, juan thompson, son of the late author remember his father in conversation. then in cambridge massachusetts, it's the present tatian of the lucas prize awarded each year for nonfiction writing. this year's winner includes nagasaki, life after nuclear war and kl, a history of the nazi concentration camps. also that evening we will be at
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the national museum of mathematics in new york city for math professor andrew hackers discussion on advanced mathematics being required in schools. next wednesday through friday book tv will be in chicago for book expo america. the publishing industry's annual trade show where we will be talking to authors of forthcoming books such as kareem abdul jabbar and marcia clark as well as publishers and book sellers. that's a look at some of the program's book tv is covering this week. many of these events are open to the public. look for them to air in the near future on book tv on c-span2. >> i'm david johnson, full-time coordinator. my connection to architecture comes only by way of a philosopher who is our case project written from 1927 - 1940.
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it completely sketches out the parisian city life in the 19th century, especially the covered pathogens that extended idle watching and people watching when inclement weather made it infeasible. in some ways, this book is a probing detective story of architecture and it has an intimate view into jerusalem like paris of the moment, unfortunately, is one of the world's most beloved and troubled cities. this book shows how the aesthetic and political mingle
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and almost collide in a place of almost constant conflict. hoffman effectively brings out jerusalem's diversity. they work in a period of political upheaval trying to build their committees that could make up their minds and wouldn't provide sufficient funds. they are responsible for building the top layers of ancient civilization and providing another tear in jerusalem's archaeological history. hoffman is the author of house of windows, portraits from the jerusalem neighborhood and my happiness bears no relationship to happiness. i think you gave a talk about that here. hoffman is also a co-author with peter cole.
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i plan to sit down now and play close attention to her and i ask that you do the same [applause]. guest: thank you for that. i'm really sorry for the slight delay. i could not control the brush fire but i am here now. thank you all so much for waiting. i think given the delay i will jump in and tell you about something that happened to me one day in jerusalem a few years ago. when i set off to mail a package at the central post office, this is a building i visited almost every day for the near 25 years that i've lived injures them. it was a hot day. everyone was irritable and the lines are long as they often are. when i finally reached the counter, i handed the clerk my package and it was a book i was was sending abroad and she probably heard my foreign accent when i said airmail please. she grabbed the package and threw it on the scale and
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continued to smack and smeared stamps at every possible angle all over the package, sideways sideways and crooked and upside down. finally see finally i said what are you doing. should you put them where they belong in the upper right-hand corner and she looked at me with utter contempt. she announced to me in hebrew, we don't have time for aesthetics. it's actually a common idea injures woman something you hear often. especially in jerusalem where politics and violence in all these things are often used as an excuse for all kinds of ugliness. now on this occasion, it kind of hit me like a sucker punch. we don't have time for aesthetics. i have time and i don't think that historically i've been alone in this.
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so the words of this clerk, they were extremely irritating to me but in a good way. they chafed, they provoked. they made me want to understand what does she mean by that we don't have time for aesthetics. over the course of the next few weeks and months as i walked around and looked at buildings, walking and thinking, i was turning this phrase over in my mind, we don't have time for aesthetics. i was i was asking myself what did it say and didn't say about the surfaces of the city and about the city's depth? when i came to, initially, was something like this. the people who built what seems to me to be the great buildings from the first half of the 20th century around the end of world war i when the british took control of palestine and
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ruled until 1948, during that time, the people who built the best of those buildings, they had those buildings, they had time for aesthetics, but it wasn't an aesthetic that turned its nose up or ignored this question of context, of basically, these were aesthetics that took into account political context and historical and geographical and topographical contacts. that is to say that it wasn't to improve luxury or diversion, it was a mean of survival. so's with all of this thinking and irritation and walking that i eventually came around to writing this book that i'm here to talk to you about tonight. it's really about what it means to try to build in a place like jerusalem where conflict is always present and it overshadows almost everything else. i'm writing specifically about
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architecture. i'm also writing about what it means to try to construct something positive in this context, no matter who you are. it's something that occurs to me every day as a writer but i think it holds true for a teacher or a social writer or whoever. the book is biographical and it focuses on three men who came from somewhere else and they all brought with them foreign ideas but there were also fascinated by what was in the place. they manage this fusion of what they were bringing and finding. what's interesting, in a way that this fusion has become part of the landscape. no one denies that these buildings are absolutely integral for the cityscape. in fact people are very proud of these buildings. there proud of them. that's during the time of each of them when they were faced by some version and they were faced with that in a quite violent fashion.
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in one way or another, the the city sort of told them that this is going to make it very hard for you to work here. so, and we will get to that later what i mean by that. but what i want to do is take you on a walk. it's going to be a fast walk if i can do it quickly. i want to take you on a walk. it's the main road and what's now the modern city jerusalem. it's actually the road along which the modern city was developed. it was only in the middle of the 19th century that it took down
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the walls. just so happens that on the street there are buildings by each of these three men. so i can give you a little tour of the street and also their work and biography and how it is that they each, in one way or another dealt with this tension between politics and aesthetics in their work. it's actually a very physically physically small area that were talking about it but it will lead us across a lot of time and will take some detours as well. so if you walk in just a few hundred meters, you will see the first one that i want to tell you about. this is no great surprise when you learn that the man responsible for it was erratic and those of you have probably
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heard of eric middleton if you know anything about architectural history. he was a man obsessed with context and all sorts of ways. he had a thriving career in germany. his office was one of the busiest and most productive of that. and time and place. his most known building is his first and it was built a few years before einstein won his award. it's considered a masterpiece. it's not my own favorite. i actually prefer buildings like this. this is a moviehouse that metals and built in berlin in the late 20s. it has this incredible sense of motion. it's actually part of the largest commercial and entertainment complex built in germany. you can feel the vote moving down the street. he's famous for his curves in the way he handles the corners
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of the street and a building and you really feel that here. i think you also feel it in this building which is also one of my favorites. this is one of the department stores that he built for the publisher. he built a series of department stores around germany. it was actually him who is responsible for bringing him to palestine, eventually. before then, mendelson had been quite fascinated by palestine. he had been there in the late 20s and found himself drawn,
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really almost magnetically to this landscape and to the possibility of building there, both as a jew and an architect and it was a feeling that a nerve to him. he was a real cosmetology and in the sense that he had some tribal affiliation and that distressed him. he was interesting and actually working on several plans that didn't actually work out at the time but he had it in the back of his head that this was a possibility. he was also interested in a serious way of the wider mediterranean region. with a group of quite distinguish artists from various fields, he was involved in a project to form a european mediterranean, if it had ever come into existence, but it didn't. it was the early 30s. for various reasons, he's taking his time getting to palestine, but, but everything changed overnight in 1933. he and his wife basically fled with a suitcase and a stamp
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collection. hitler had come into power and they understood there was no place for them and they had to get out as quickly as possible. they went to holland in london and he actually set up a practice in london. in the meantime there was this question of what would he palestine and jerusalem himself. at this point he's in offered these commissions and would you like to come and build villas for them and head off the medical organization and a possibility of a hospital he might build. i want to read to you just a short passage from the book that's from right around this. in 1934. he has just arrived in town in december and he's taken one preliminary walk across where the hospital is that they wanted to build. he's trying to figure out what to do with himself. was the beginning of exile or was it the end? the once champagne toasted architect had to wonder as he
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cast out in the hotel room. luisa had felled fled the drawing paper that filled the atmosphere and snuck off to cairo for a few weeks of sightseeing before helping their daughter prepare for her wedding though he worked too much he found time to marvel at the pair of rainbows that appeared over the old city one day, a mystical image with no presence, only cast in the future. he also paused to take in the sweet scent of the winter flowers that had sprung up all around. these colors, these smells moved him and when he managed to put down his pencil and look up, he continued to circle the process and wondered what it would be like to live in the northern
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country. he wasn't really asking her. and neither was the fate of all the world choose his primary concern. he answered himself in the same letter mostly with himself in mind. i come to regard the people in the field, even the european jews who inhabit the hotel a little more as my brothers. it seemed to take real effort for him to feel that kinship. when he admitted both his passion for the stark hills in his revulsion of what he saw being thrown up he sounded less sensitive and sentimental and more like himself. blisteringly honest. a few days after his initial trip, he returned for another look with what he called the eye, the food of the soul. eager to frame his master plan, the architect was prepared to be
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swept by the view. instead of lifting him up and inspiring him, this visit was nothing short. i have visited all the buildings and it has been violated by the devil hand, it's incompetent and self complacency. i feel like jeremiah deeply depressed and winded in my soul. this makes me hard and insecure. he had, in other words decided to stay. he would need to find a more suitable place. so the office that he found was this place, a remarkable building which his wife luisa actually notes in his memo that looks like the einstein tower. this is a windmill and in jerusalem it still there. if you know jerusalem it surrounded by all kinds of
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hotels but he set up shop here. they lived here and they opened an office. he got down to work. what he got down to were doing was completely reconfiguring the kind of architecture that he wanted to be responsible for. he understood, again that his context had changed and it wasn't just a matter of they're moving to a new place. he was going to have to rethink the possibilities. the very first project that he completed there was this villa. you can see, obviously this is not that big berlin moviehouse but there are certain elements that you can still see. everything has changed in terms of the typography. he has to deal with a much more hilly landscape. not just hills, he really has to figure out how to make these gardens landscape.
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the gardens are there but they're much more restrained. the whole constraint in which he's working has changed. he can't allow the extravagant extravagance of the great big german buildings. he's working with pergolas and trying to deal with the sun and reconfigure the possibilities in terms of this climate. most notably, those of you who have been to jerusalem no maybe those of you who don't know, everything in jerusalem by law must be built in stone. not necessarily load plant bearing blocks but at least covered, the face, in stone. this is this is a big chunk for someone who has made a living out of reinforced steel and concrete. he does that with the library that he built across the street. again you see the curves. he's very proud of this window which he calls his rembrandt window for the color of the light that comes in.
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this is attached and that's important to understand how difficult he was pretty think you got a sense of that from what i just read. his ego was not small. he was a perfectionist and a difficult person and he expressed himself often quite emphatically. one of the things he and expressed himself about was the way he saw his peers, the other architect to also landed but they were simply imitating their old european design which especially got under his skin. he called these buildings they're putting up, they were basically the same and he called them pastors buildings and said we need to learn from what is already here. he's very explicit about saying palestine, there are people who have been here for hundreds of years and they figured out how it to build and it would behoove us to learn from them. even in the case of this very obvious project, he is essentially trying to take his cues from this local
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architecture. obviously it doesn't look like that. it's a modern building. but he seems to think that it draws him, it stepped into the hillside or this translation of how palestinian villages are set into the hill in this very gentle way that shows the topography of the space. he's also echoing the domes and he's very deliberately echoing him. you can see his domes closer up. this is the dome on the front of the book which the workers called the breast. you can draw your own conclusion of course, for him, not surprisingly this notion that the country wasn't a virgin
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country and was connected to a political program. he made a firm point of saying that palestine is part of the arabian world and in talking quite explicitly and writing about what he envisioned as a new commonwealth that would bring arabs and jews together to work together toward building this thing. needless to say it did not make him especially popular and his personality didn't help matters. as he's building, the situation is getting harder and harder politically. there are all kinds of things that make it simply hard to construct in a practical way. there are fistfights and brawls about which workers are going to work on the construction site for will it be arabs or jews, will they be members of the right-wing nationalist party. people are pounding on each other about this. there are curfews and strikes and riots. this pertain to everyone. this violence was making his life harder and harder as an
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architect, no matter what he believed in, he also also had to get things done. the quarries are often closed so you have to keep redoing your plans because you don't have sufficient stone. what i want to do, i haven't forgotten is take you down the street just a little ways and a little bit further on in time and explained that in 1936, the arabs of palestine, basically seeing what was happening, the jews not only had england promised as the national home but now with hitler's rise, they were flooded with new immigrants and there was a sense that this country was being taken away from them. a revolt broke out against the jews, but really against the british who were responsible, i'm making this very simple, to move along our stories but these are the broad outlines of what's going on historically. against the british and there's a great deal of violence.
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then in 1939, and here you can see, to bring us back this is the bank that's going up in the late 30s and in may of 1939, this has probably been taken a bit earlier, the british government problem finally issues a white paper and roof response to this revolts but also to the war, it massively limits immigration and landfills. as a result of the white paper, the jewish population rises up and now there are nonviolent protesters and bed springs thrown in the street and a full fledged terrace campaign is happening. in may in 1939 which is the central post office they plant
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several explosive packages. one explodes in the face who's trying to defuse it. he's killed instantly and there's a huge hole in the post office. this room had just been dedicated the year before. oddly enough it's the room in which i had my irritating encounter with the clerk. it just so happens that that very week that the bomb went out , the bank was opening next door. it was kind of an unfortunate convergence. he's thinking of construction and there's all this destruction next door. so he writes an article explaining what he means with his architecture to a very distracted public. people have a lot of other things on their mind given the political violence and everything that's going on. he said it's meant to echo the start verticals of the building and how he wanted the steps to be the shape of his building to work into the hillside as it
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would in a traditional palestinian village. he talked about the colored stone front and the contrasting color schemes. people were not necessarily so interested in how he was thinking of it as the stuff is going on next-door, but he makes a point, it's clear that this post office bombing has rattled him severely. he doesn't refer to the bombing itself but he does talk about the building next door and he calls it the most frequented public building in the city and one of architectural importance he's clearly trying to situate his relationship. this was a logical target for the terrace. it was the largest and costliest building put up by the british in the entire mandate. it's obviously an emblem of foreign rule.
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what the terrace couldn't see in what eric mendelson himself was very aware of is that it also bore this sort of subtle stamp of its builder and here he is with his dog. harrison was the chief architect of the british mandate in 1932. his name austin is after his distant relative jane austen. he was a british person and embodied a kind of britishness but he was a brit who left england is a young man and served in the first world war and never went back. he was deeply at home in the area of this wider mediterranean. he spends his entire life in palestine and egypt and greece and cyprus and he was next door
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neighbors and friends with lawrence jarrell who dedicates the book bitter lemons to him. he was fascinated by the architecture of the whole region when i want to do is take you on another little detour to show you a little bit of that and the influences in his work. this is one of the sketches from one of his notebooks when he was there. he labeled it palestine townhouse. this is a classic shape of a palestinian building, a cube with the dome on top. he's sketching it and trying to figure it out for himself. there are a lot of amazing things about him. the way he will take this humble form and move it over to this grand structure that he's building for the british architect.
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it's like the white house of palestine. it's the home of the high commissioners. you see very clearly echoed the same cube with the dome. he does the same thing which is probably my favorite building in the whole city which, when it went up is the museum and now it's outside city walls. he's doing the same thing in the middle with the cube in the dome but he's doing so much more here you have tombs and fords and what he describes, you have the alhambra. put that in your mind and look at the courtyard. i want to read you another
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little piece from the book about this building. it's almost as though harrison had drifted to sleep in dreaming this building. which for all of gravity also contained a certain sly and distinct illness. it seemed to be symmetrical but isn't quite. its careful geometry give the illusion of matching one another but street differences are shown throughout. with the play of light and shadow and strict lines giving way to arcs and hidden nooks and wide-open spaces. it's a riddle. more than anyone stella building, the museum exits echoes the ramparts and city right beside it. it transforms the chaotic
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competing powers into the actual jungles and angry looking landscape into a single harmonious whole. it's not exactly utopian the building is aspirational. it suggests his own private vision of the city, not exactly as it was but as it might, in a better world, be. it brings us back to the post office. he can see this is the last building that he completed in jerusalem and palestine. it's a much more restrained building. other buildings are much more interesting. you have the arched windows. you can't see them in the picture but there's heavy ornamented doors. if you go around back, again he's doing something like mendelson in terms of using hand cut blocks of stone to work as steps as the villages do of the
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hillside. he's also using a syrian form of masonry. he's doing this all in a very sophisticated way. like mendelson, he did not attempt to replicate. he's trying to work out confusion between the new and the old and the east and the west. unfortunately, he was having a very hard time working in this highly politicized contacts. he was a pacifist and found there was really no place for him in this national struggle he found it harder and harder to work and was constricted by a british bureaucratic setting and they needed a workhouse to crank out more and more public lavatories in schools and he was an artist. he essentially fled the country
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in autumn 1937 he left without telling anyone. he didn't even sell his furniture. he just left town. he left before the museum had its grand opening which in fact was canceled that the last minute because one of the british archaeologist making his way to the ceremony was ambushed and murdered. he left before the grand opening of the post office and the detonation of the bombs. the word he uses is that he had escaped. mendelson also would leave soon after. the excuse the wife would give in her memoir is that they thought palestine was going to be invaded. i don't think that had much to do with it at all. i think you felt lonely and dismayed about what he saw taking hold aesthetically and politically in the country. they were peers and kindled
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spirits and when harrison goes, it greatly affected him. others leave around the same time for many of the same reasons. he wrote that he is lost in a world that has lost itself. he also, i mentioned his ego. there is a way way in which he felt this place had not acknowledged his own gifts and what he could give the country. at a certain point, one friend scored weaker and warns him there is no place here for a pre-madonna because the only pre-madonna is palestine itself. so they packed their bags, eric and louisa and set sail again, this time for america. this is in 1941, but i don't have time to go into all of that. that's how the city spat them out. it didn't spat out their building and this is a critical thing. these buildings, which went up in the late 30s were in the
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kind of conversation with each other from the outset. with the street and the people who walked by, it seems to me there still in that conversation 75 years after. so time is moving along but i want to keep moving. we now have the post office behind us and were making our way toward the square. were making our way toward this building. it's going to hit us if we keep walking that way so were headed for that building. this to me is one of the most spookiest and most dignified buildings in the downtown area. it's very unusual for that part of town. you can see there's a much more obvious eastern theme going on. you've got these arched windows and interesting shapes. you also have these panels and these are the handiwork of a master and they were brought to
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work on the dome and rock but that's another story that i don't have time for now. it's in the book. what i found fascinating about his story was these foreign elements being integrated and becoming something that people identify with as jerusalem. you see everyone thinking that this was the ultimate jerusalem style. the man who put them in this building, if you can see past the junk and the clatter that fills this building, you can imagine this building when it went up in 1929 was the was the height of fashion. it was built at wealthy christian goers. that is something almost no one
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remembers now. a man who is called by one common and architectural historian and among the most outstanding are arab architects but his name has been almost entirely erased. he is by far the most mysterious that ira about this book. here he is in a single picture that we know to exist. when i set out on this quest for him, i knew almost nothing. i should say the quest took place. it was a slightly limited thing that i was doing. i'm running around looking for traces of this man. so i didn't know where he was born or when he was born. i didn't know when he died. i didn't know his education or
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family situation or anything. the most solid evidence we have of his existence are these little carling cards that he left the side of some of the buildings he built. it seems seems to me we can read them for clues through messages from beyond the grave. what is he telling us with these engraved letters? first of all, it seemed notable to me that they are in latin letters. they're not in in arabic. i thought it was interesting. spiro is obviously a greek name. g is a little peculiar because it's not the gesture used in middle initial. it seemed odd to me in terms of contemporary culture. then his last name corey, corey is, in arabic it's very common name. it means priest. it's pretty much like smith or brown. it's usually spelled odd.
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what does this mean, does it tell us something more substantive about the language that he dreamed in? there were other clues that were not adding up that i found in a 1919 newspaper in newspaper. i found an ad for his services and an english language ad for a room to rent in his house. as i was trying to put the puzzle pieces together, the war was going on and i was trying to make some sort of sense of these clues that i was finding. okay, by now i've talked about how the city spat out mendelson and harrison. they treated corey differently. it's more sweeping and more extreme because it's not the case of one man being driven out, it's about an entire culture. it's a social eco-'s that he represented. i don't just mean he was an arab and that their second class
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citizens, but i'm saying something different. i'm saying that he seems to have had an identity that was flexible enough and fluid enough to not really have any of these terms apply. as the conversation goes on, it attempts to be very rigid and you are either in arab or you're with us or against us and it seemed to me from all the clues that this did not of pertained to him or the city he lived in. there is a great deal of flexibility in terms of identity and also the other people who wanted to have context with him. i'm not just talking about a physical landscape. i'm talking about a human landscape as well and the way connections work across impassable borders. so in order to think about this and figure out who he was, i was also having to look into the
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people condition to build these buildings and what does it tell us about him and his city. rob mendelson else almost entirely for jewish clients. corey was a kind of equal opportunity employee. he really worked for all people from all different ethnic grounds. he worked in a range of styles. he's best known for those houses or villas with the ceramic set into the front. he built in all kinds of other ways as well. i will show you very quickly some of these other modes. this is the main drag, the commercial hub. it seems, you always have to qualify things, it seems he built at least three or four these buildings.
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these are obviously much more european mood with balconies and their various columns and what not. these he built respectively for an iraqi jew who was a translator from arabic. here you can see the way these buildings look today with the israeli flags on the front. it seems like he had an office in one of these buildings. he also built for a greek speaking turkish doctor. he built two houses for this man. he came to jerusalem and served as the chief physician of the city. he also built for an arab catholic aristocrat who considered himself a defendant from chris leaders and was the his wife and children sitting on the steps. he built an apartment house in this man was a well-to-do muslim corey owner. he built for a man from one of the most powerful professors.
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it's on the way as you're going up toward mount scope us. this is a much more elaborately mode with these details and tile work. you see here he's building this in 1922. two. he's also building, across town a house with a really weird red copper roof for a judge who came to town and hired him to build the house. so it's often called eclectic. i come to think of it differently. it's a cross-fertilization and border crossing that has historically been done and your
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slump. i didn't know certain things about him when i set out. was he born greece, was he arab, maybe he was local, was he foreign, is it is it possible he's all these things. it seems to me that his own identity was contradictory. the city itself was capable of having these multiple identities. in fact, functioning according to this eclectic principle, this dynamic way that embodied and was an expression of the cities culture. it's still there and it seems to be endangered but it's harder and harder to see that it's endangered. thank you very much. i'm happy to answer questions. [applause]. if there are questions.
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i didn't actually, yes. >> i had to be a detective. i did not find as much as i would like. i did find archives and i spend a lot of time in that section of the book. i'm in it as a character and i describe it as a quest and i take the reader in these archives with me. i found some things. the fact that he was working for private clients meant that there was less of a record then there would have been. even when mendelson worked, he kept everything and saved everything and worked for institutions and harrison worked for the government and they saved everything to come about when you're working for private
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individuals there's not the same paper trail. there are personal reasons too. and i reveal them in the book. it explains why there wasn't so much preserved of what he my stuff written. there must've been something. no architect could have not created a lot of paper, but i found things out about him. i also found things out about the city. i think at some level i felt i was chasing him around or chasing his traces around he was leading me to places i wouldn't of gotten without him. he was giving me this tour of the city that does still exist and there's people from all of these communities. i had a lot of help from the greek community and the greek patriarch and the people there. i was seeing things that i otherwise wouldn't have seen. then i found the box that had all of his remains. it wasn't the case but i wouldn't say came up completely empty-handed. no, none of that at all. i think this is a kind of
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architecture without architects. there was a way that he was functioning in a zone where engineers were putting things up in these kind of private houses were not being written up in their journals. they were also international figures in a way. he was a local in that sense. he doesn't seem to have existed anywhere else so the rest of the world was not that interested. >> so unfortunately it's part of my job to be the ogre here so one more question and if you would come to the mic. >> local college student and first volley want assay how meaningful a passenger work to be. my question is is, in your
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research for your most recent book, the the book you are speaking about this evening, what did you find most surprising after your research and what you find least surprising? that question is really hard to answer. the truth is i can't commit to one. the thing that surprised me was finding surprises every day in some way. it wasn't as if i suddenly had a revelation. it's the city that tends to get to, and the way the rest of the people talk about it and think about it. it's tiresome the same story over and over again, at least as it's told in the newspaper. it's very repetitive in that sense i think i was trying to find a way to surprise myself
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and surprised city. these are not people who tend to be written about in history books. in part because we don't have time for aesthetics. i can't really answer that question in a specific way except to say i was surprised when i did find some things, that was a very exciting surprise, but i highly recommend you go to this museum. palestinians don't go because it's a very israeli institution and their afraid that i'm often wandering around by myself in this amazing building. then i'll be surprised by a
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doorjamb or something. so in that sense, high and low lows. thank you for the question. >> as rich as this talk was, i've read the book and the book is richer. you really need to take a look at this one. it's very well done. thank you so much. [applause]. [inaudible conversation] the line will form to the right if you want her to sign. the books are at the back. here's a look at some books that are being published this week. national book award winning author nathaniel philbrook looks at the relationship between war generals


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